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Healthwise Maui

Q: I have dark-complexioned skin. Do I still have to worry about skin cancer?

Dr. Derrick Beech, surgical oncologist, Maui Health System: There are several types of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell cancer and melanoma. Melanoma is typically considered the more aggressive and potentially fatal type of skin cancer, with a propensity to spread to other parts of the body. No one is immune to developing melanoma based on their skin tone. Brown and dark-complexioned persons should be aware of the possibility of developing melanoma and pay close attention to skin protection and prevention. Often, melanomas in people of color can develop on the fingers, toes, hands and feet (called acral lentiginous melanoma).

Q: Is there anything that can be done to reduce excessive sweating?

Dr. Stephanie Yan, general, trauma and critical care surgeon, Island Family Surgical Care Center: Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can run in the family. This is a common disorder affecting 2-3 percent of the U.S. population. Excessive sweating can happen in different areas of the body, like the underarms, palms and soles of the feet. Primary hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that is not caused by another medical condition (or medication) and the excessive sweating is the medical condition itself. It may be present from birth, but most cases tend to start during adolescence. Secondary, or “generalized,” hyperhidrosis is caused by another medical condition or medication. It is important to distinguish one from the other.

Excessive sweating is not only annoying, but it can truly be debilitating. Severe cases can have serious practical consequences, making it hard for people who suffer from it to take notes in school, hold hands, grip the steering wheel or rails, work out or shake hands. It can affect performance and training in athletics and in the arts. Those with excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, sweat nearly all the time or at random times. Social consequences are varied and severe, with some sufferers retreating from social functions or hiding out from opportunities that can affect their careers and livelihood.

Natural herbal remedies have been suggested to treat excessive sweating as well as therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, hypnosis, gluten-free diet and relaxation techniques. There is little data or research behind these treatments, but this doesn’t discount their potential. There have been several studies to recommend using antiperspirants, iontophoresis, oral medications, botox injections, microwave energy, lasers and minimally invasive surgery.

Treating hyperhidrosis should be taken with an individualized approach, as there is not one treatment that works for everyone. Through a careful evaluation of causes and triggers of hyperhidrosis, followed by a collaborative and systematic approach to treatment, many people with this debilitating disorder can achieve good results and improve their quality of life. Contact a doctor for help with excessive sweating — it’s not just you, you’re not just imagining it, and no, you’re not just making a big deal out of it. It is a big deal and it can affect all areas of your life.

* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.